ITHACA, N.Y. –– There are economic uncertainties in these COVID-stricken times, but some businesses see this as a prime opportunity to expand their footprints. For example, Cleveland-based KeyBank. In a time where most retail banks have been limiting their footprints and moving to online services, KeyBank is seeking to add a third branch in Tompkins County, in a brand new building to be built next to Chili’s.

Plans call for a new 3,415 square-foot building with associated parking, stormwater, landscaping improvements and signage to be built on what is currently a parking lot just to the north of the Chili’s Restaurant at 608 South Meadow Street. Plans show a fairly simple one-story design with metal panels and brick veneer, along with a freestanding canopy with drive-up remote tellers further west in the parking lot. On a related note, the floor plans of the building show a “teller pod” with capacity for two bank tellers. Offices, consulting rooms and conference room making up the bulk of the interior space, along with one of those “hospitality style” lobbies that are popular in retail banking these days.

The parking lot is owned by Wegmans and is considered a subdivision of the Wegmans property. Wegmans has sought development of its accessory parking lots, technically referred to as “outparcels”, but the only plan to have been put forward in recent years is a proposal for a 15,700 square-foot retail space on the parking lot to the north of this site. Wegmans has long-planned to build a freestanding space for a sister retail unit, but while approved, the buildout has never come to fruition. The KeyBank parcel is one of three satellite outparcel sites identified in the Wegmans Plaza master plan approved in the 1990s.

The project is expected to cost about $1.5 million to construct and furnish. If planning board review is a relatively smooth process (and there’s no reason to suspect a small outparcel development in the city’s suburban SW-2 zone would be a contentious issue), construction on the new branch office would begin this June and open for business in March 2022. As one often sees with chain projects, the project team largely hails from outside the region. Cleveland-based HSB Architects and Engineers is in charge of  design for the new branch, with Costich Engineering of Rochester providing the civil engineering work for the development.

Existing KeyBank branches in Tompkins County are located at 300 North Tioga Street in Ithaca and 2315 North Triphammer Road in Lansing. Both were previously HSBC branches bought by First Niagara Bank in 2011, which KeyBank then bought and merged into its corporate body in 2016. No indication is given in the plans if either of those branches will close as a result of the new branch being developed, though the geographic seperation between them suggests that it’s likely all three are intended to serve different sub-markets and customer bases within the greater Ithaca-Tompkins market.

KeyBank traces its history back to 1825, when ones of its two ancestral banks (Commercial Bank, later KeyCorp) was founded in Albany, New York. KeyCorp merged with the similarly-size Society Bank of Cleveland in 1994; Society Bank got the expanded headquarters and corporate jobs because Cleveland had lower taxes and a nicer airport, while they used KeyCorp for the combined company branding. The firm counts 1,197 bank branches, primarily in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.